Robert Mitchum Award

The Robert Mitchum Award is to be presented to the author(s) of the best paper published in Basin Research in the calendar year preceding the award. The paper must be of high scientific standard and should represent a significant contribution to one or more of the disciplines represented by that journal. The Mitchum Award will consist of a certificate and a specially bound copy of the issue in which the pertinent paper appears.

 

The Robert Mitchum Award 2019 was presented to:

Christopher Kirkham
and his co-authors Joseph Cartwright, Christian Hermanrud and Christopher Jebsen

For their paper ´The genesis of mud volcano conduits through thick evaporite sequences´, published in Basin Research, Vol 30, No 2, April 2018.

This novel study used high-resolution 3D seismic response and subsurface geometries for apparent mud volcano conduits (MVCs) in offshore Egypt to substantiate the potential for migration of fluids through thick sequences of otherwise impermeable evaporites. Interpretation of MVCs is complex because of imaging artefacts and abrupt lateral velocity changes. The traditional explanation for migration of sub-salt fluids into the post-salt section requires “windows” in the salt layer caused by salt mobility. The authors carefully screened seismic data for 386 mud volcanoes in the study area to define 93 cases of data acceptable for interpretation. The data show that MVCs can be reliably identified and are likely rooted within the Pre-Salt sequence. The authors propose a detailed model for MVC formation, which includes rapid loading during evaporite deposition, undercompaction, and significant overpressure development in the Pre-Salt. The results (1) demonstrate the potential for petroleum and other fluids to penetrate >1-km-thick sealing evaporites, (2) are broadly applicable to many other salt basins worldwide, and (3) have far-reaching implications for petroleum exploration, sequestration of carbon dioxide, and disposal of nuclear waste.

Past winners of the Robert Mitchum Award

2018 Paul Green And co-authors Ian R. Duddy, Peter Japsen, Johan M. Bonow and Jean A. Malan
For their paper ‘Post-breakup burial and exhumation of the southern margin of Africa’ published in Basin Research, volume 29, issue 1, pp 96–127.
This excellent paper presents the use of apatite fission track analysis and vitrinite reflectance data from outcrop samples to document five major cooling episodes that affected the southern margin of Africa, all of which are interpreted as dominantly reflecting exhumation. Erosion time in the hinterland is synchronous with canyon incisions and thick deposition of sediments offshore. The Late Cretaceous exhumation and regional cooling is a major event. Such phenomena are described at the same period in other locations (West African margin - Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Atlantic margin of Brazil), suggesting plate scale processes and the need to rethink models of post-rift development of continental margins. The paper is extensively documented, with many references and rigorous analysis of data. Hypotheses and uncertainties are clearly stated. The presentation is excellent. 
2017  Francisco Pángaro  

And co-authors V. A. Ramos and P. J. Pazos
For their paper ´The Hesperides basin: a continental-scale upper Palaeozoic to Triassic basin in southern Gondwana´, published in Basin Research, volume 28, issue 3, October 2016, pp. 685-711.
Francisco Pángaro and co-authors present a very comprehensive integration of 2D regional seismic lines, well-logs, cores, cuttings and biostratigraphic data, together with previously published interpretations covering neighbouring basins and structures in South America and southern Africa, to identify a new basin, the Hesperides, and to place it in the spatio-temporal evolution of SW Gondwana. The basin fills a gap of some 250,000 sq.km. in the previously uninterpreted Argentinian continental shelf and enables the integration of upper Palaeozoic to lower Triassic basins of SW Gondwana. Even though only two wells penetrate substantial thickness of Palaeozoic rocks, the remarkable continuity of the Palaeozoic record confers high confidence in the interpretation. The paper is outstanding in its scope and detail and forms a fundamental addition to the Gondwana story, with potentially long-term implications for both academic and industry geoscientists.

2016  Cari L. Johnson 

And co-authors  Kurt C. Constenius, Stephan A. Graham, Glen Mackey, Tess Menotti, Andrew Payton and Justin Tully
For their paper ´Subsurface evidence for late Mesozoic extension in western Mongolia: tectonic and petroleum systems implications´, published in Basin Research, volume 27, issue 3, June 2015, pp. 272–294.
Based on a synthesis of new 2D seismic reflection and refraction data, extensive whole core analysis and recent outcrop studies, Johnson et al. infer a westward continuation of the late Mesozoic extensional province of eastern Mongolia and China into the Gobi-Altai region of western Mongolia. They identify two phases of sinistral strike-slip faulting in the Tugrug basin: a Late Jurassic transtensional phase created accommodation space for a sequence of mainly lacustrine deposits that remain largely preserved despite a Neogene transpressional phase that resulted in structural inversion of parts of the basin. In this wide-ranging study that includes zircon dating, fluid inclusion and source rock analysis, the authors conclude that there is an active petroleum system within the Tugrug basin with the potential to hold hydrocarbons in conventional or unconventional reservoirs. This thorough and comprehensive analysis sheds new light on the prospectivity of Mesozoic basins in western Mongolia. 

2015  James Pindell  

And co-authors Rodney Graham and Brian Horn
For their paper 'Rapid outer marginal collapse at the rift to drift transition of passive margin evolution, with a Gulf of Mexico case study', published in Basin Research, volume 26, issue 6, December 2014, pp. 701–725.
From seismic analysis of many magmatic and non-magmatic passive margins around the globe, Pindell et al. recognise a phase of rapid outer margin collapse and basinward rotation as an additional stage between the rift and drift stages of margin formation. Outer marginal collapse accords with the exhumation stage of other authors; it encompasses all the processes that form continent-ocean transition zones and probably takes place within 3 Ma. This paper describes the impact of such collapse, with varying styles of magma supply and salt, on accommodation space and subsequent sedimentary deposition. The authors then apply their observations to a case study from the eastern margin of the Gulf of Mexico. The paper uses excellent seismic data to support the authors' interpretations, which provide further insights into the styles of development of passive marginal basins, with potential benefit to both academia and industry.

2014  István Csató   And co-authors Didier Granjeon, Octavian Catuneanu and Gerald R. Baum
For their paper 'A three-dimensional stratigraphic model for the Messinian crisis in the Pannonian Basin, eastern Hungary', published in Basin Research, volume 25, issue 2, April 2013, pp. 121-148.
This paper combines high quality seismic data and excellent stratigraphic forward modelling to simulate the basin-fill history of the Pannonian Basin. Using the seismic data as constraints, the authors test possible tectonic scenarios by quantifying vertical movements, sediment supply, lake-level changes and transport mechanisms for each scenario. They conclude that the Messinian unconformity in the Pannonian Basin was caused by an absolute drop in water level, probably linked to the desiccation of the Mediterranean, followed by subsidence and regression in the basin centre with tectonic inversion and uplift along the basin margins. The authors discuss the important implications for hydrocarbon exploration by identifying turbidite facies in the bottomsets of the lowstand systems tracts.
2013  François Guillocheau   And co-authors Delphine Rouby, Cécile Robin, Catherine Helm, Nicolas Rolland, Christian Le Carier de Veslud and Jean Braun
For their paper entitled ‘Quantification and causes of the terrigenous sediment budget at the scale of a continental margin: a new method applied to the Namibia-South Africa margin’, published in Basin Research, volume 24, issue 1, February 2012, pp. 3–30.
A new method is presented by the authors for estimating, in three dimensions with uncertainties, the history and volume of sediment accumulation at the entire basin scale, from upstream continental onlap to the most distal deep marine deposits. Having developed the method based on regional 2D cross-sections, available in most basins worldwide, the authors apply the technique to quantify the sediment accumulation volume history along the Namibia-South Africa margin. They identify a number of significant variations in accumulation volumes and rates and relate these to changes in relief, deformation and climate. By linking the spatio-temporal evolution of porosity with regional thermochronology, the new method can help to identify prospective areas of hydrocarbon maturity. Because the approach is relatively easy to implement in a variety of basin settings, it is very likely to benefit the practising explorationist.
2012  Sverre Henriksen 

And co-authors William Helland-Hansen and Scott Bullimore
For their paper entitled ‘Relationships between shelf-edge trajectories and sediment dispersal along depositional dip and strike: a different approach to sequence stratigraphy’, published in Basin Research, volume 23, issue 1, February 2011, pp. 3–21.
The authors use an extensive set of high quality seismic data over progradational successions at several locations along the Atlantic margin to develop and illustrate the concept of shelf-edge trajectory (i.e., the locus of the palaeo shelf break and how it migrates with time) and its impact on sedimentation patterns. The authors use plentiful examples from interpreted seismic data to support their assertion of a systematic and predictive relationship between shelf-edge trajectories and the occurrence of sand-rich environments at specific locations along the depositional profile. They show how the trajectory can rise, fall or remain flat, depending on sediment input, accommodation space and water depth.
While the concept of trajectories is not original, the authors apply it in a number of different geological cases and take the idea to a new level. It is also appropriate that the first paper to receive the EAGE Mitchum award should deal with seismic sequence stratigraphy, of which Robert Mitchum was one of the earliest exponents and whose 1977 paper with Vail and Thompson is the first citation therein.